Questions remain after WIPP town hall

CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – A lot questions remain about the WIPP radiation leak.

On Thursday at a town hall meeting in Carlsbad, residents and many WIPP supporters told officials they’re frustrated.

They say they’re not getting enough answers and the rumor mill is running wild. Some residents say they’re flat out concerned for their safety, while others just want more information faster.

On Thursday, Carlsbad area residents, many of whom strongly support WIPP, pleaded for more information about the Feb. 14 underground radiation leak that seeped outside.

“We think that we should be the number one partner and know everything that’s going on from A to Z,” said resident John Hearton.

The Department of Energy worked to reassure people they are safe, even though the underground storage areas remained sealed off.

“There are no health impacts to you, to your family, the members of your community from the event,” said WIPP technical advisor Fran Williams.

WIPP officials say the radiation levels around the WIPP site have now tested normal and there is no threat to the Carlsbad community.

The DOE says a second and third round of biological tests of the 13 contaminated WIPP workers show levels were extremely low and not likely to cause any serious health problems.

Some residents remain concerned.

“I want to believe what they’re saying that the levels are practically non-existent, but truthfully, I don’t really believe that,” said Karen Armendaruz.

Others were encouraged.

“I hope they follow up and follow their promises that they’re going to keep the community of Carlsbad and southeast New Mexico up to date,” said WIPP employee Terry MacDonald.

The DOE and the company that run WIPP may send robotic probes underground as soon as Friday.

If it’s safe, workers in protective gear will follow. Then they’ll try to see what caused the leak in the storage vaults.

Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and Rep. Steve Pearce met with the U.S. Energy Secretary on Thursday to urge the DOE to be more open with WIPP workers and the people in the Carlsbad area about what’s going on at the plant, and to talk about WIPP’s immediate and long-term future.

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